Interview with Mwanel Pierre-Louis for “Alchemy”

Thinkspace is pleased to present Alchemy featuring new works by New Jersey-based artist Mwanel Pierre-Louis. His colorful and layered worked portrays scenarios that express duality and emotions. Louis connects with everyday people who are willing to shed off their daily stories and allow him to capture them through his paintings.

In anticipation of Alchemy, our interview with Mwanel Pierre-Louis discusses the creative process, best artistic advise, and Footlocker.

SH: For those that are not familiar with you and your work, can you give us a brief look at your artistic background and zodiac sign? 

MPL: Hi! I’m Mwanel Pierre- Louis, everyone calls me One- L lol. I’m originally from New York City and Jersey City, but I was raised most of my life in Miami, FL.  My Haitian influences mixed with Miami’s vibrancy transformed my personal interest to create. Went art school most of my life, such New World School of the Arts for high school and Art Center College of Design for Illustration Design. Worked in the entertainment and fashion industries out in LA for a few years after leaving Art Center. Came back to Miami to really pursue the career as a Fine Artist/ Illustrator/Artist. Got very inspired by my environment with its color, people and energy.  If you’re wondering what zodiac sign I am, I’m a Gemini. 

SH: Is there a particular piece in this exhibition you feel really challenged you? If so, why and what makes you proud of this piece.

MPL: Well, many of these pieces were challenging for me. Due to the fact of time and complexity with some pieces. During this time of creating, I was really pushing my limits with all aspects of the new work. This really humbled me throughout the process.  In this case, there was one piece I can say made me go to think I wasn’t sure if I’ll be done with. That was “Aura” (FIRE), even though it was fairly sized, the details made me tap out a few times. Before starting this piece, I was in a marathon, knocking out paintings with great time and better process. I’m was glad I pushed myself throughout that piece. Many hours of love and built up hand cramps came into play lol. 

SH: Where do you source inspiration? Do you jot inspiration down in a notebook or on your phone?

 MPL: This last couple of years have been ups and downs, highs and lows. Definitely let the universe take its course on me and I can say it was an adventure. I really had me think clearer than I ever did. Every time I crossed an individual I can tell that we’re going through similar things in life. We all take part in this walk of life, but we’re willing to grow further by allowing ourselves to walk through our periods of life. I made sure that I forced my introverted self to be more extrovert and start conversations.  It came clear we all have common situations. It took me back to when I read “The Alchemist”. Even a conversation with my dad. He said “your next body of work should be called “Alchemy”. Your work really shows evolution within the people you paint and portray.” 

While traveling most of 2018, I’d carry my sketchbook and/or iPhone to write down words that lead up to ideas, then finally to scribbles. Heading into 2019, I moved to Jersey City to isolate myself from everyone to work on this new body of work. I do remember bouncing off ideas with other fellow artists that were in my building of Mana Contemporary. I’d ask if I can record on my phone or steal some context from them to imply it into the new works.

SH: What is your favorite and least favorite part of the creative process?

MPL: Favorite part of the creative process is being submerged into the moments of the piece and also finding the mistakes within the piece. The least favorite part of the creative process is getting cramps in my hands and the last leg of the day while painting for more than 12 hours out the day. I have a tendency of either pushing myself or dosing off and messing up my palette. And the very least favorite thing is when I have to match paint in areas of leaked paint that got stuck under the tape.      

I also appreciate the process when I’m designing out the composition, either by a drawing or if it’s digital. It’s just me and my thoughts while I explore my horizons. Gives me great solitude and I stay on my toes. Not caring what the outcome would be. I’ve grown to be more open to that process. 

SH: A Netflix movie is being made about your life, who would be cast to play you and what kind of movie would it be? Try to describe it with similar movies. 

MPL: Haha, I never got to think about that, but in the past, I’ve always been mistaken for the singer/dancer/actor/friend of mine, Omarion. I trust his skill lol. Maybe even Micheal B. Jordan as well, I definitely see him with my essence in the Black Panther movie haha. Like a comedy, drama or biopic movie would be a scenario. Who would want to see an aesthetic of “Moonlight” meets Julian Schnabel’s “Basquiat”?  I think there’s content within that.

SH: What is the best technical advice you’ve received in regards to painting / being an artist? What is the best philosophical advice you’ve received?

MPL: One piece of advice I’ve received from fellow artist as a painter was to not jump around from one area to another without finishing the one area. If you feel that you’ve completely finished that area then go to the next thing.  As for the philosophical advice, here’s one or two,“Balance yourself during your process, you have all of the time to create, but enable to create, you must live life as well.” Another universal quote I took in dearly is “Focus on you, so they can focus on you!” 

SH: Are you a podcast, tv/ movie streaming service, or music in the background type of painter? What were you listening to during the development of this show that you would recommend to others? 

MPL: As for my listening sessions, I’m all three. I’ll have my Netflix days, my Apple Music or SoundCloud days, and even my podcast days.  The top podcasts that I’m listening to are Joe Rogan Experience, TigerBelly, The Savvy Painter, Bodega Boys and of course, Clean Break Podcast.  On my iTunes/ Apple Music, I’ve ranged from Kaytranada to N.E.R.D. to Burna Boy. Netflix is where I’m definitely listening to comedies like the latest Dave Chapelle stand up to Marvel/ Star Wars movies. Also got caught up on Netflix originals such as “She Gotta Have It” and “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee”.  Very simple, but gets my days going. 

SH: What is the coolest or most exciting thing to happen to you thus far in life and is it because of or connected to your work?

MPL: These last few years have been a rollercoaster for me. I can actually tell you that 2018 was my busiest and yet most transitional year I’ve ever been in yet. I’d worked on multiple projects with commercial backing, traveled much and networked more than ever due to my work. March 1 was a pentacle day for me, I’d received a commercial gig with Adidas and Footlocker. That was one of the best experiences I’ve been apart of. The agency that reached out found my work through from the previous body of work I put out. They wanted to fly me out to LA for a video shoot where I would be starring. 

The project entailed, that I would make a video-based around this shoe “The Deerupt” and my life but with a sportswear treatment. This included me to paint a piece featuring the Deerupt for one of the Footlocker stores in Miami. After, donate that painting to one organization of my choice. For the video shoot, I was asked to do a monologue and bring out a painting of mine for them to be featured. Also, each location, I was wearing a different outfit from and riding on a fixed gear bike. Overall, I had the best time just being me and networking with other creatives throughout the project. 

SH: What do you think the role of artists is in society? How does other artwork inform how you move through life? 

MPL: Without art, I wouldn’t think that the world would function the way we would now. Without the artists, we can’t uplift nor make a culture to function within an organized society. It would be grays all around, not even black and white. I’m more so a colorful person just by the way I use the colors within my work. I draw others into a portal just by the colors that I’ve placed as context. 

SH: What would a perfect day outside of the studio look like for you?

MPL: Well being in New Jersey, there are many things that I can do while being out of the studio. But a perfect day for me would be at the waterfront in Hoboken, sitting at the boardwalk staring at the New York City line. Then head to the path train, over to Soho area and just venture off to different streetwear boutiques, vintage t-shirt stores and of course head over to Midtown Comics. Guarantee, you can also find me walking around New Museum or the Whitney Museum as well. That can be considered a perfect day for me. I rather spend time being invested with the culture around me from time to time.

SH: Fun Hypothetical: A world-renowned chef wants to make a dish inspired by your artwork and favorite food. What would be the dishes ingredients and what is it similar too?

MPL: Damn, this is such a great question. I never thought about seeing my artwork inspire a dish. Well, I have a weakness for pizza or any flaky pastry. To be realistic, the pastry might be it. Like an empanada or Haitian Pâté. A Haitian pâté consists of thin layered dough skins with a middle opening with a different type of meat or vegetable.    Maybe each layer had a different color dye to it. But the top would be its normal color. The type of meat that I can see in it is either ground turkey meat or shrimp. Better yet, I don’t even mind seeing Cauliflower and other veggies within the middle area. The reason for having those elements is that is transferred into the way I peel off layers to my subjects. Each color represents the energy that is portrayed at the moment while eating the pastry. It fully translates with an individual that you come across within my paintings. 

Join us for the opening reception of “Alchemy”
Saturday, September 14, 2019 from 6:00pm – 9:00pm